When I brought home my first puppy in 1975, I bought the dog food recommended by her veterinarian. When I got married, and both my dog and Paula’s dog came to live with us, our only thought about dog food was budgetary. I now know that feeding the food that costs the least per pound can have significant hidden health costs.
In 1991 my wife and brought home our first puppy as a couple. On the advice of Paula’s employer, a veterinarian, we fed him a premium pet food. Within a year Gus developed a chronic urinary infection which his veterinarian believed was related to how he processed food. Thus begin our journey of learning about pet nutrition. Late in 1995, we relocated to Maine where we became the new owners of the Green Acres Kennel Shop. Gus was still struggling with urinary and bladder issues, and we were committed to learning all that we could about the best nutrition for our pets and those of our clients. Eventually, we found a food that helped Gus, and we also begin to look very critically at every pet food we sold. (FMI – http://bit.ly/Gus-Nutrition).
I am often asked by clients how they can learn more about their pet’s nutritional needs, something I encourage every pet parent to consider, and these are the resources I recommend.
Dog Food Logic – Making Smart Decisions For Your Dog In An Age Of Too Many Choices, by Linda Case. A good review of dog nutrition, the pet food industry and what dog parents should look for and even more importantly, look to avoid.
Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats – The Ultimate Diet, by Kymythy Schultze. If you want to learn how to feed your pets a raw and natural diet that you make, from ingredients that you choose, this is the best place to start. NOTE: I specifically recommend against anyone feeding their pets a homemade diet if they have not done adequate research. If you fail to formulate an appropriate diet, you can harm your pet. This book provides sound advice.
See Spot Live Longer, by Steve Brown and Beth Taylor. By the founder of Steve’s Real Food for Pets, this book is an excellent introduction for anyone considering feeding a raw diet. Steve’s second book, Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet, is also another excellent book for understanding the benefits of feeding raw, even if it is not for every meal. ( FMI – Podcasthttp://bit.ly/WfMw-SteveBrown-2010 ).
Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, Ph.D. This book was the one that initiated our search for natural healthcare and nutrition alternatives for Gus. The recipes for pet food are sound, but a bit biased towards grain and carbohydrates.
The Truth About Pet Foods by Dr. Randy Wysong. This book by Dr. Wysong dramatically changed my view of the pet food industry. It went from my naïve presumption that all pet food companies must be trustworthy to one of “buyer beware. A veterinarian and the owner of a pet food company, Wysong’s approach is very non-conventional. In this book, he states “It seems that the ideal would be for people to make their own pet foods.” Wow! The owner of a dog food company suggesting that pets will be healthier if their owners make their food from fresh, whole ingredients instead of feeding commercial dog food. Dr. Wysong is someone I can respect and trust. He was also the first person to help me understand the importance of rotating what we feed our pets and the reasons not to food them the same food day after day. (FMI – Why Rotating Diets Makes Sense–http://bit.ly/DietRotation ). (FMI – download the book for free – http://bit.ly/WysongTheTruthAboutPetFoods-pdf )
Pet Fooled – A Look Inside A Questionable Industry is a 2016 documentary film about the pet food industry. Everyone I know who has seen Pet Fooled has a new attitude about what they feed their pet. The film is available on Netflix and other video-on-demand services listed at the Pet Fooled web site ( https://www.petfooled.com/ ). The filmmaker also maintains a Facebook page with valuable information on the pet food industry (
The Science and Dogma of Pet Nutrition with Dr. Richard Patton – This is a video of a presentation that Dr. Patton did for Green Acres Kennel Shop in April of 2016. ( http://bit.ly/Video-Dr-Richard-Patton )
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.
Grain-Free dog food has been all over the news since July 12th and sadly the information the mass media has reported been oversimplified and incomplete. The fact is this is a complex issue.
In this episode of The Woof Meow Show from September 29, 2018, Don speaks with canine nutritionist, science writer, and the author of Dog Food Logic Linda Case about this very issue, asking, Is Feeding A Grain-Free Food to Our Dogs Dangerous? Other issues addressed in the show are:
Should dog parents currently feeding their dogs a grain-free diet immediately switch to a non-grain-free dog food?
What is Dilated Cardiomyopathy and what is the role of Taurine in the disease and grain-free foods?
Does the FDA know with 100% certainty that grain-free food is the cause or could it be something else?
There has been some suggestion in posts on Facebook and other places online that one should only purchase dog food that has been tested via AAFCO feeding trials. Is that sound advice?
Is it important for dog parents to review the ingredients label when making decisions about what to feed their dog?
In this post from 18AUG18, Veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker discusses the latest marketing practice by some pet food companies; the hyping of “Clean” ingredients. While that may sound like a good thing, because of the lack of a legal definition of the term “Clean ingredients” puts this in the category of just more misleading marketing hype.
Key points highlighted by Dr. Becker are:
The processed pet food industry is increasingly at a loss to understand how to keep pet parents happy and buying their products.
The industry touts the self-funded “science” behind their pet food, but laments that consumers don’t trust it.
The pet food industry also engages in misleading marketing practices intended to present their products as fresh, wholesome, “natural” and “clean.”
Unless big pet food aligns its goals with those of pet parents, it will continue to lose ground as consumers find alternatives to processed diets.
I find that the following two paragraphs from Dr. Becker’s post summarize her concerns quite well:
“No, the science the pet food industry would like us to buy into is the science of learning how to keep dogs and cats alive (surviving, but not thriving) on biologically inappropriate, “feed-grade” diets that must include synthetic vitamins to meet minimum nutrition standards.”
“The science they tout involves testing the limits of dogs’ and cats’ tolerance for poor-quality, biologically inappropriate ingredients that have undergone extreme processing methods. The endgame is to keep carnivores alive on a processed diet of grains, starches and the poorest-quality animal protein they can get away with. It’s the science of dollars and cents. The cheaper the ingredients, the bigger the profit margin.” [ Emphasis Added ]
< A version of this article was published in the December 2017 issue of Downeast Dog News>
The holiday gift-giving season is upon us, and for many of us, that means finding that special something for our friends with dogs. I believe that one of the best gifts we can give is knowledge, so here are my recommendations for three books and one DVD that are perfect gifts for dog lovers everywhere.
A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! by Niki Tudge –If your family includes children and a dog, if you have children that spend time around friends and family members that have a dog, or if you have a dog that spends any time around children, you, your children, and your dog will benefit from your reading A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog!.
The goal of this new book from author Niki Tudge and Doggone Safe is to provide a resource that anyone can use to teach children how to be safe around dogs by teaching them how to “speak dog.” As a dog training instructor that teaches both adults and children how to train their dogs, we make teaching canine body language part of our classes. What I have learned over the past 22 years is that before taking a dog training class, even most adults are not aware of most aspects of “speaking dog,” which is why I believe this book will be of value to both children and adults.
A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! is written to be used as an interactive resource and uses cartoons and photographs to illustrate body language dogs use to signal when they are happy, afraid, and angry. By teaching children, and adults, how to read and respond to these signs the book helps keep people and dogs safe. The world is full of children and dogs, and it is essential that we teach them how to interact safely. A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog! combined with a parent or teacher does just that. I give this book five paws!
Hope for Someday by Vincent Ewald, illustrated by Tom Leigh – Written by Ark Executive Director, Vincent Ewald, and illustrated by Ark Board President, Tom Leigh, Hope for Someday is a beautiful picture book for children. It is the perfect book for teaching children that pets experience the same emotions as people. By learning that our pets share these feelings, it is hoped that our children will learn the importance of compassion for all living things. The book is the core of The Ark Animal Shelters PippY (Positively Inspiring Pet Programs for Youths) program, and all proceeds from the sale of the book directly support that project.
My last two selections are a DVD and a book which address pet nutrition. This is such an important topic and one where the world is filled with a great deal of misinformation such as the advertisements we see on TV. The documentary film Pet Fooled – A Look Inside A Questionable Industry by director Kohl Harrington examines the megalithic corporate entities that produce and market the vast majority of what we feed our pets. What Harrington shows us is not always pretty nor healthy for our pets. Two of the veterinarians that appear in the film; Dr. Barbara Royal and Dr. Karen Becker explain what our pets need to eat to be healthy, and what you need to look for in a food if you desire optimum health for your pets. You can watch Pet Fooled at http://www.petfooled.com/ and on Netflix or purchase it at the Apple iTunes store.
I first heard Dr. Richard Patton speak about pet nutrition at a conference in the fall of 2015. I was so impressed with the depth of his knowledge and his ability to speak in terms that the average pet owner could understand, that I invited him to speak in Bangor six months later. His book Ruined by Excess, Perfected by Lack addresses two of the most significant health crises facing our pets; obesity and poor nutrition. If you want to learn how to feed your pet for optimal health, I encourage you to read this book.
I was so impressed by the quality and importance of the information in Pet Fooled and Ruined by Excess, Perfected by Lack that I provided many veterinarians in the area with copies as a gift.
No matter which of the holidays you celebrate this time of year have a very joyous season!
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. He is committed to pet care and pet training that is free of pain, force, and fear. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.
An excellent article by veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker address pet obesity and pet nutrition. Key points addressed are:
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention’s (APOP) 2016 clinical survey recently reported that nearly 54 percent of dogs and 59 percent of cats are clinically overweight or obese
Several related diseases and conditions may occur when cats and dogs are overweight or obese, including inflammation, diabetes, heart conditions and metabolic and endocrine disorders, not to mention strain placed on their bones, joints, and organs
The survey was an indication of the disparity between pet owners’ ideas of how pets should be fed (and how much) and veterinarians who repeat the same uninformed opinions they’ve had regarding pet nutrition for years
The world of pet food is more than a little confusing. It can also be very misleading and even deceptive. In this blog post, I will be listing several articles, podcasts, books and websites that I have found to be excellent sources of information on pet nutrition. It is the goal of my blog, and our store, Green Acres Kennel Shop, to help you stay informed about pet food so that you can make healthy choices for your pets while staying within your budget.
I would encourage you to subscribe to my blog as every time I learn something new; I will update this article. I am always reading new information on nutrition and interviewing new guests for our radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show simply because nutrition is a constantly evolving science. Additionally, when I become aware of pet food recalls I post them on my blog as soon as possible. All you need to do to subscribe is to enter your email address and to click on subscribe.
My wife Paula and I became interested in pet nutrition by necessity when our Cairn Terrier Gus developed health issues that were directly related to what we were feeding him. Since then pet nutrition has become our passion. In fact, Gus and his health and nutritional quirks are a primary reason we entered the pet care services industry back in 1995.
If you prefer to discuss your pet’s nutritional needs in person, please stop by the store. We enjoy talking about nutrition and helping people find food that will benefit their pet and budget.
*Video – The Science and Dogma of Pet Nutrition with Dr. Richard Patton – A video of animal nutritionist, Dr. Richard Patton’s presentation, The Science and Dogma of Pet Nutrition, presented for Green Acres Kennel Shop in Bangor, ME on April 28th, 2016. – http://bit.ly/Video-Dr-Richard-Patton
In this episode of The Woof Meow Show on May 6th, 2017 Kate and Don interview Kohl Harrington the director of the new documentary film Pet Fooled – A Look Inside A Questionable Industry. Pet Fooled offers a critical review of the pet food industry, and it is not pretty. Listen to this show and learn why big pet food companies may not be as concerned about your pet’s health as they want you to believe.
Issues explored in the film and on this episode of The Woof Meow Show include; regulatory lapses which led to the pet food recalls of 2007, the high-powered marketing used to promote food that is not biologically appropriate for cats or dogs, confusing but legal advertising that makes pet foods look better than they are, and the major pet food companies problematic influence over veterinary education and the regulation of pet foods, and more.
Green Acres’ will offer four free screenings of Pet Fooled – A Look Inside A Questionable Industry on Saturday, May 13th at 3:30 PM, Saturday, May 20th at 9:30 AM, Wednesday, June 7th at 6:30 PM and Monday, June 26th at 6:30 PM. Each screening will be followed by a question and answer period. Seating is free but limited, so please call us at 945-6841 to reserve your seat.
In this series of articles on pet nutrition, I will start by discussing myself, my pets, and why I am so passionate about this topic. I will follow that with an article discussing the fundamental nutritional needs of both dogs and cats along with my opinion on the pros and cons of various type of diets; kibble/dry, canned/wet, homemade, frozen raw, freeze-dried raw, dehydrated, and others. Next, I will review the many myths circulating about pet food and the facts that refute those myths. Lastly, I will discuss what to look for in a pet food and a pet food company and what to avoid.
The first four things I tell my clients and students about pet nutrition are; 1) Quality, wholesome nutrition from fresh, whole foods is fundamental to good health, 2) all pet food companies and pet foods are NOT the same, 3) there is no single brand or formula of pet food that is the “best” for all pets, and 4) Be wary when seeking advice on pet nutrition, as the pet food world can be a deceptive place. Considering the latter, you are probably asking yourself; “Why should I trust what this guy has to say about pet nutrition?” So I will start with some background on why I am so passionate about this topic, and hopefully, you will find that I am worthy of your trust.
I became interested in pet nutrition long before I knew I would become a pet care professional. My interest was not driven by choice but by necessity. My wife and I adopted our Cairn Terrier Gus, in 1991. Before Gus had been with us for a year, he started to have chronic urinary tract infections (UTI). Our veterinarian tried all of the conventional treatments, and without fail, the infections kept coming back.
Crystals are often present in the urine when a dog has a UTI. Gus had two types of crystals in his urine; calcium oxalate crystals which occur when the urine is
acidic and triple phosphate or struvite crystals which occur in urine when it is alkaline or base. If you remember your high school chemistry, you will recall that acid and base are opposites. Measured on a numerical pH (Hydrogen potential) scale, seven is neutral, less than seven is acidic, and more than seven is base.
The pH of Gus’ urine could swing between 5 and 8 in a 24 hour period, going from base to acid and back. This variation in pH was just one more conundrum in determining what was going on with him, but our veterinarian was convinced it was a nutritional issue. As a result, he had us purchase several bags of different brands and formulas of pet food and to feed Gus x number of kibbles of one brand and y number of kibbles of another brand while monitoring his urinary pH and keeping records of our results. We did this for several weeks, and there was still no significant change. The infection cleared up, but the crystals remained, they continued to be an irritant and Gus continued to have accidents and infections. We kept trying different foods and measuring pH to no avail, and Gus eventually had to have a bladder stone removed.
In the summer of 1994, we vacationed in Maine, and while we were here, my wife purchased a copy of Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats by Dr. Richard Pitcairn. After reading the book, Paula started preparing Gus’ food from scratch, based on recipes in Dr. Pitcairn’s book. We tried different recipes, measured Gus’ urinary pH, and there were still no significant, lasting improvements.
We moved to Maine in the fall of 1995 when we purchased Green Acres Kennel Shop, and Gus’ UTI’s remained a part of our lives. In the spring of 1997, a pet food distributor walked into the store trying to convince us to sell his brand of pet food. We were not looking for another food at the time, but as we chatted, we started sharing dog stories. We told him about Gus and his UTI’s, and then we realized we had something in common; he also had a dog that had had crystals in his urine. He told us his dogs UTI’s resolved when he started feeding his brand of food, supplemented by a probiotic and a pH supplement also manufactured by the company he represented. He offered us a six week supply of the food and supplements at no charge saying “Try it and let me know what you think.” At this point, we had been dealing with Gus’ UTI’s for over five years and thought what have we got to lose. Before we had used the six-week supply, we saw marked improvement in Gus’ urinary health and decided we needed to learn more about this pet food and supplement company.
We started feeding this brand of food to our pets and selling it in our store. This company has a strong belief in education, so we started reading the books written by the company’s owner, a veterinarian. His approach to nutrition was very different from other pet food companies. When asked “Why shouldn’t we feed our pets only dry pet food, even if it’s a quality brand?” he responded “For the same reasons people would not eat the same tired old packaged product at every meal for a lifetime. We intuitively know variety and freshness are linked to health. 100% is not known about nutrition, and it is therefore absurd to claim one can fabricate a 100% complete diet. It seems that the ideal would be for people to make their own pet foods, but many people are too busy for this. The critical thing is to know the ideal, and for pet carnivores that is their natural prey diet–fresh, whole, and raw. Since it is never possible to achieve the ideal at all times, compromises must be made. By keeping the diet as close to the ideal as possible, one makes the fewest compromises and thus has the best chance at health.” [emphasis added]
Wow! The owner of a pet food company is saying that fresh, whole food prepared by a pet’s guardian is a better choice than any commercial pet food. That is not something I ever expected to hear from the owner of a pet food company, but at a common sense level, everything he said makes perfect sense. This prompted us to start reading everything we could on pet nutrition as we wanted to feed our pets as best as we could afford while helping our clients do the same.
We have been on this pet nutrition journey for 24 plus years. We learn new things all of the time while watching the continually changing cast of characters in the pet food world. It takes effort to keep current with all of these changes, but we feel it is necessary because we need to be looking out for our pets.
Beginnings – Getting Your Dog and Cat Started on a Raw Diet by Melinda Miller and Honoring Your Cat’s Natural Diet by Terri Grow <Click here for a free download>
Feline Nutrition: Nutrition for the Optimum Health and Longevity of your Cat – Lynn Curtis
Natural Nutrition for Cats: The Path to Purr-fect Health – Kymythy Schultze
Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats – The Ultimate Diet – Kymythy Schultze
Ruined by Excess, Perfected by Lack – Dr. Richard Patton
See Spot Live Longer – Steve Brown and Beth Taylor
The Truth About Pet Foods – Dr. Randy Wysong
Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet – Steve Brown
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.
This is the second in a series of shows on Holistic and Complementary Wellness for Pets. In this show Kate and Don talk with Bette Schubert from Bravo Pet Foods. Bette tells how having her dog die after being fed a high-quality dog kibble contaminated with aflatoxin led her to teach herself about feeding a raw diet and starting Bravo Pet Foods. She discusses both the benefits and obstacles of feeding pets a raw diet and shares her experiences with pets that have benefited greatly from feeding a raw diet. Kate and Don also share their experiences feeding their pets a raw diet.